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Researchers from Hokkaido University in Japan demonstrated that molecular robots can perform cargo delivery by using a swarming strategy, achieving five times the transport efficiency of individual robots.

Robot swarms provide robots with capabilities that are not possible in individual robot activity, such as splitting work among themselves, responding to different risks, and establishing complex structures as the environment changes. A micro-robot or machine at the micro or nano scale may be perceived as only being suited for a limited set of tasks, but their swarming capabilities could permit them to perform a variety of complex tasks and be integrated in a variety of solutions.

Researchers used five million molecular machines, which are made up of two biological components: microtubules, which can swarm, and kinesins, which can transport microtubules. Swarming was controlled by combining DNA with a light-sensitive compound called azobenzene, which functions as a sensor. They also added cargo consisting of polystyrene beads ranging in diameter from micrometers to tens of micrometers, enabling control of swarming also at the loading stage.

Swarms of molecular robots, according to, have demonstrated the ability to cope with thirty micrometers of polystyrene beads, and even achieved five times the efficiency of individual robots.

It showed that molecular machines can operate in a swarm-like strategy and perform high-efficiency missions together, and its impact on microrobotics will likely be significant. There is a possibility that microrobot swarm technology will soon be applied in a variety of industries and fields, including medicine and military, when molecular robot cooperation could lead, among other things, to the effective manufacture of drugs and the development of defense technologies against chemical and biological warfare.